Las Vegas gets second Cup date in 2018; New Hampshire loses a Cup date

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Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host two NASCAR tripleheaders next year, the track announced Wednesday.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., is moving a Cup date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will have the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Trucks for both its spring and fall events in 2018. The Cup and Truck races will come from New Hampshire. The Xfinity race will come from the standalone event at Kentucky Speedway.

New Hampshire will retain its July Cup weekend.

Las Vegas’ fall race weekend will be announced at a later date by NASCAR but is expected to take place in the third or fourth weekend of September (what had been New Hampshire’s spot).

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of SMI, said the move is best for the sport.

“Over time it’s something that we thought about,” Smith said of the moving dates. “This became the right time.

“It’s a matter of all the great things for the whole sport of NASCAR to be coming to Las Vegas, a city that has worldwide renown and attention and draw. I think from a NASCAR perspective to have a tripleheader weekend in the fall of the season is going to be a tremendous positive for the whole sport.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will pay $17.5 million — $2.5 million a year for seven years —  in a sponsorship agreement with the track. The Convention and Visitors Authority will pay a $1 million sponsorship fee for the spring race and $1 million sponsorship fee for the fall race. The Convention and Visitors Authority also will contribute $500,000 to a marketing fund.

The contract goes through 2024 and can be extended for three years at the same rate.

Drivers attending Wednesday’s announcement were Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brendan Gaughan, Noah Gragson and Spencer Gallagher.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? Money, money, money. Vegas has more of it than New Hampshire does. Simply, this makes business sense. Las Vegas is expected to have higher attendance than New Hampshire has had. New Hampshire also was held back by an agreement with local residents agreeing not to hold night races at the track. That came about after those residents filed a civil lawsuit against the track years ago. The track also has wanted the two-lane road leading to the facility widened but the state hasn’t done so.

HOW DOES THIS MOVE IMPACT THE SPORT? It gives NASCAR the chance to alter the playoff schedule next year. While it is most likely that Las Vegas slips into New Hampshire’s spot in September, there’s another way to look at it. Why not move it back later in the playoffs and create a West Coast swing at the end? One idea would be to have the season end with Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami. That’s just one option, but this opens the door to changes — if NASCAR will do so.

WHAT’S POSITIVE ABOUT THIS CHANGE? For the sport, it is better to have two dates at Las Vegas in that they will be further apart than what New Hampshire’s dates are. Las Vegas is the hot town in sports with the NHL moving there and the Oakland  Raiders looking to move there in the near future. The belief is it will help raise the sport by being in Las Vegas.

WHAT’S NEGATIVE ABOUT THIS CHANGE? NASCAR adds another 1.5-mile speedway to the schedule and possibly the playoffs. That would mean there could be five 1.5-mile tracks among the 10 playoff races next year with Las Vegas replacing New Hampshire and Charlotte using the infield road course with its oval for its playoff race. Move also won’t be popular with Northeast racing fans or fans who like the racing at the 1-mile track even with Marcus Smith saying they plan to create a special modified weekend in that September slot. 

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Results, point standings after second Xfinity race at Kentucky

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Austin Cindric dominated to win Friday night’s Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway, leading 130 of 200 laps.

He completed a sweep of the series’ doubleheader races at the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Chase Briscoe, Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the results.

Check back for the point standings.

Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton fight after Xfinity race

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Noah Gragson punched Harrison Burton after Burton repeatedly shoved him in the garage area as they discussed their contact on the track late in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

Gragson and Burton were battling for fourth on Lap 188 of the 200-lap race when Gragson, on in the inside of Burton, drifted up the track into Burton’s car. Both cars hit the wall. There was no caution and both fell back. Gragson finished seventh. Burton finished 12th. Austin Cindric won for the second consecutive night.

FS1 cameras caught Burton and Gragson having a discussion after the race. The cameras caught Burton pushing Gragson away. They continued to talk when Burton shoved Gragson again and Gragson punched Burton. Crew members jumped in. NASCAR officials broke up the fight.

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports that series officials spoke with both drivers and that no penalties are anticipated.

Burton told FS1: “Just frustrated. That’s two times since we’ve come back after the COVID-19 pandemic on restarts, same situation. We rallied all night to get … (into) fourth place and (Gragson) happens to start in third and just, I don’t know, forgets what racetrack we’re at or what. Both times puts us in the fence, Charlotte and now here. I had a lot of people coming up to me afterwards saying that was a long time coming, so I guess that was a popular move. But honestly, it’s about these guys that work on these racecars and give me fast racecars.”

Gragson told FS1: “This track is so much about track position and restarts. … We’ll go on to Texas and rebound.”

FS1’s Jamie Little told Gragson that Burton noted their incident at Charlotte and asked if he saw what happened Friday coming: “Not really. We’re all racing hard. Us teammates are beating and banging for the finishes at the end and whatnot. I really don’t have a comment.”

Austin Cindric completes Xfinity sweep at Kentucky

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A night after claiming his first oval track win in NASCAR, Austin Cindric followed it up with a victory in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

The Team Penske driver completed a sweep of the series’ doubleheader races on the 1.5-mile track, dominating with a stage win and leading 130 of 200 laps.

Cindric crossed the finish line with a 2.2-second advantage over runner-up Chase Briscoe.

The top five was completed by Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.

Unlike Thursday night, Cindric celebrated with a burnout on the frontstretch.

“I hope I laid enough rubber down to make up for Watkins Glen last year, that was pathetic,” Cindric told FS1. “I’m just so excited. … what we did tonight was really impressive. Because we ran one setup last night and won the race. We came with another setup and won the race again. That happens at the shop, that happens with the guys on the (pit box).”

Later in his press conference, Cindric said a change in setup was in part due to the tracks that are coming up, at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

“Obviously with mile-and-half-tracks being really important in the second round of our playoffs with Texas and Kansas, our next two races being Texas and Kansas, and the question of having practice or not is looming very big for me,” Cindric said. “Obviously, Phoenix (site of the championship race) is the most important race of the year, but you’ve got to get there first. I feel like those are two really important steps other than Martinsville to get there. So deciding on what we want to run at those race tracks given those characteristics and more … that’s why we decided to change the game tonight.”

After the race, Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson got into a scuffle. They had made contact on a restart with 13 laps to go. Gragson finished seventh and and Burton placed 12th.

STAGE 1: Noah Gragson

STAGE 2: Austin Cindric

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Chase Briscoe finished in the top two for the seventh time in 15 races this season … Justin Allgaier finished in the top five after he spent just 33 of 200 laps on the lead lap after a flat tire brought him to pit road early in the race and put him a lap down … Ross Chastain placed fourth for his 13th top-10 finish of 2020, most of all drivers.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Sieg spun in Turn 2 on Lap 3. He finished 35th … Riley Herbst finished 10th after he was caught speeding on pit road with 52 laps to go … Brandon Jones spun and wrecked with 22 laps to go while racing for second with Daniel Hemric. It’s his fourth consecutive DNF.

NOTABLE: Cindric is the first driver since Richard Petty in July 1971 in Cup to win races in the same series in consecutive days.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Texas Motor Speedway at 3 p.m. ET July 18 on NBCSN

NASCAR to teams: Address ‘complacency’ to COVID-19 mask protocols

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NASCAR sent a memo to teams earlier this week advising them to address “pockets of complacency” toward its COVID-19 mask protocols.

The memo was first reported by WCNC, NBC’s Charlotte affiliate.

In the memo, NASCAR said it was “seeing more and more van loads of crew members rolling up to the track without masks on, and people wearing their mask down around their chin.”

The memo stated that further flouting of the protocols “will threaten our ability to continue racing.”

“More people in our industry are going to contract the virus,” the memo added. “The key is limiting it.”

“It is important for everyone to do their part ALL THE TIME. One cluster outbreak can derail our season.”

In May, NASCAR issued a bulletin stating failure to comply with COVID-19 rules could result in a $50,000 fine.

The memo comes after seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 last week, forcing him to miss the Brickyard 400. Earlier this week Johnson had two negative tests, allowing him to be cleared for Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway.

Previously, Stewart-Haas Racing had two employees test positive for virus and Team Penske had one employee test positive.

In North Carolina, where most NASCAR teams are based, the state now has 81,000 cases and it has reached 1,000 hospitalizations for the first time.

The Cup Series is scheduled to hold its All-Star Race on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Northeast Tennessee. Tennessee has just over 59,000 confirmed cases and has had 86 deaths since Sunday, a single-week record.

NASCAR is scheduled to compete next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Texas has more than 235,000 cases and almost 3,000 deaths. On Thursday, it recorded 10,000 new daily cases for the second time.